Larry Marano / Retna Ltd. 1 / 5
Larry Marano / Retna Ltd. 1 / 5

How much body scrutiny is Jessica Simpson under in the wake of Mom Jeans-Gate? So much that the mere act of holding an oversized purse in front of her body is enough to touch off speculation of an impending stork visit.

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The bun-in-the-oven burbling started when the Tony Romo-smitten starlet stepped out for dinner on Tuesday with her mom, Tina, at the Los Angeles outpost of Nobu.

Paparazzi video of the outing prompted "Entertainment Tonight" to wonder if the reason why Jess, 28, outfitted in a clingy black dress, gray wrap and vertiginous ankle-strap stilettos, was being "secretive about her stomach" and "protecting" it from the shutterbugs is because she might be expecting.

Simpson also seemed to be shielding herself with a suitcase-like designer tote as she and her quarterback beau arrived hand-in-hand at the Staples Center to cheer on the Los Angeles Lakers during Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday.

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But behind the bag, she looked lovely and enviably lithe in airtight skinny jeans and a white T-shirt, although there was a suspicion-generating shot of her holding her hand in proximity to her belly.

So, is Simpson in the family way or is this just another example of the media's constant rush to judgment whenever a female star keeps her tummy under wraps or shows a barely perceptible bit of swelling?

It's looking a whole lot like the latter. A source close to Jessica tells us that the pregnancy rumblings are "ridiculous."

When contacted, Simpson's rep said, "We do not comment on our clients' personal lives."

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This is the second time in recent weeks that Jess, who is reportedly planning to star in a new reality show titled "The Price of Beauty," has been subjected to obstetric scrutiny. Last month, her midriff-baring performance at Sea World in San Antonio led to similar hunches.

Simpson, who is a doting aunt to taunt-hurling little sister Ashlee's 6-month-old son Bronx Mowgli, has made no secret of her hopes to one day hear the pitter-patter of little feet, pointing out to People magazine last September that she's "not just dating for fun."

"I want kids someday," she said. "I want a family." When asked if she sees herself achieving those goals with Romo, whom she's been dating since Thanksgiving of 2007, she answered, "I do."